Colleges would be prohibited from asking students about their criminal history when filling out an application under legislation heading to the governor’s desk. Executive Director of Operation Restoration Syrita Steib-Martin spent nine years in prison on a theft charge. Once released, she applied to the University of New Orleans where she checked the felon box on her application.
“I filled out my application, I had about 30 credits hours from when I was incarcerated, went through the whole process and I was denied entrance into the institution.”
Martin says a few years later, she applied to UNO again with exact same information and was admitted because she did not check the box on her application. She says education plays a big factor in an individual’s success after being released from prison.
“When they’re released, a lot of people aren’t asking for handouts, they’re just asking that the barriers be removed so that they can begin to start their lives over.”
Schools can still ask if an applying student was convicted of stalking, rape or sexual battery.
Martin worked with Lafayette Rep. Vincent Pierre and Baton Rouge Rep. Ted James to craft the legislation. A study finds that two-thirds of felons stopped filling out their application when asked about their criminal history. Martin says if that box was removed, the recidivism rate drops significantly.
“The recidivism rate goes down to 15% for people who receive an Associate’s Degree, it goes now to less than 6% for someone who obtains a Bachelor’s.”